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Afro-Feminist Festival Organizers Call Out Paris Mayor For Accusing Them Of Racism

30/05/2017 22:45 SAST | Updated 31/05/2017 03:08 SAST
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The Nyansapo Festival is set to take place in late July.

A black feminist festival slated to begin on July 28 in Paris has already been subject to scrutiny and an attempt to be cancelled by the city’s mayor.

The Nyansapo Festival ― organized by the Mwasi Collective, an Afro-feminist group ― aims to be a safe space for black feminists to curate sociopolitical strategies to overcome marginalization and oppression. But the event ruffled feathers, with far-right and anti-racism organizations calling foul after it came out that most of the event’s activities would occur in racially exclusive spaces

According to the event’s website, 80 percent of the activities at the festival will be reserved for black women; another will be dedicated to all black people, while a third component will be for all women of color. The last segment will be “open to all” races and genders. 

TeleSur reports the outcry began when organizations such as the far-right National Front Party and anti-racism groups like The International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) discovered the festival’s intention to only reserve one of its activities for all races. On Friday, LICRA tweeted that “Rosa Parks would be turning in her grave,” if she knew of the Nyansapo organizers’ decision to give black women a safe space to share in their experiences with marginalization. 

Needless to say, when Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo learned that white people would only be encouraged to attend a small percentage of the event’s activities, she attempted to halt the festival by calling police officials. 

A translated tweet from the mayor on Sunday revealed she took issue with the festival being “forbidden to whites” and that she would even consider prosecuting the event organizers for discrimination. 

But, after what she claimed to be a “firm” discussion with the Mwasi Collective, on Monday, the mayor said a “clear solution” was reached. 

Yet, TIME cites social media backlash condemning the mayor’s earlier tweets about the festival, as one of the reasons she retracted her stance. 

The festival organized in a public place will be open to all. Non-mixed workshops will be held elsewhere, in a strictly private setting,” reads a translated version of one of Hidalgo’s tweets on Monday.  

Bu according to the Mwasi Collective, the set-up didn’t change as a result of a conversation with Hidalgo; they’d already intended for the “non-mixed” workshops to take place on private property. 

“After lying about the Afro-feminist festival ‘banning whites,’ [the] Mayor of Paris lied again, claiming she forced us to change the event,” a representative for the Mwasi Collective said in a statement sent to HuffPost. “We already planned to hold workshops for black women in a private space ― [the] mayor falsely [took] credit for our plan.” 

So, as of now, the Nyansapo Festival will go on as initially planned, and white fragility seemingly remains alive and well in the City of Lights. 

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